DLA using ‘internet of things’ to support warfighter

By Debbie Roulier DLA Information Operations

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Many people rely on “smart” devices in their daily lives, but these technologies can be applied in the government to increase efficiency and accomplish the mission. According to one estimate, there will be 20 billion “Internet of Things”  devices in use worldwide by 2020, in homes, businesses, and government.

In its push to stay on the cutting edge, the Defense Logistics Agency uses IoT devices to better support the warfighter. DLA is using IoT in the Distribution Modernization Program, which is intended to replace the Distribution Standard System for logistics management and support. DLA is looking to implement both radiofrequency identification as well as Bluetooth sensing.

Linus Baker, chief of cyber security for DLA Information Operations, noted the potential of IoT in a recent televised discussion for the Government Matters Thought Leadership Network.

“We manage over 6 million line items,” Baker said. “If a soldier or warfighter needs it, DLA most likely supplies it.… IoT is the driving force behind us being more efficient [and] providing more real-time data to make accurate decisions on the battle space.”

Logistics data used to be entered manually, which was not as efficient and sometimes hindered readiness. The use of IoT devices allows DLA to practice “just in time” logistics, instead of “just in case” logistics — enabling troops to order an item when they need it instead of keeping it in stock for days, weeks or longer. 

DLA has also learned from the retail industry’s use of IoT, Baker said. “We looked at wholesale and logistics providers such as UPS, DHL and others. They take advantage of IoT, and they don’t have the same concerns we do from a cybersecurity perspective.

“But they still have stakeholders; they have a profit margin they have to meet, and they have fiduciary concerns, so we should challenge the status quo there,” Baker noted.

DLA works with over 12,000 commercial suppliers who are also dependent on IoT, and the agency hopes to collaborate with industry leaders to increase readiness across the military, he said. 

Baker said DLA’s current three-year cyber integration initiative will include IoT. “We tried to integrate our cyberspace operations, which is a huge enabler, with our global logistics mission,” where challenges, gaps and operational risks address priorities at a given time, he said.

This gives visibility of the supply chain beyond the “dot mil” environment where DLA provides support. DLA works with over 12,000 commercial suppliers who are also dependent on IoT, and the agency hopes to collaborate with industry leaders to increase readiness across the military, Baker said. 

DLA is also working on the Enterprise Data Warehouse, which will be the authoritative source for logistics data to be used in real time, Baker noted. Establishing an authoritative source will help DLA improve how it shares data and results.